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Angry widow calls for new 9/11 panel

U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon revealed the military knew a year before the attacks that four eventual hijackers were here - a fact the Sept. 11 commission omitted from its report.

By PAUL DE LA GARZA, Times Staff Writer
Published August 12, 2005

TAMPA - With details emerging Thursday that the Sept. 11 commission omitted crucial information from its final report last year, a group of 9/11 widows called for creation of a new independent panel.

"I'm very disturbed, and I want to get some answers," said Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband, Ronald, died in the World Trade Center. "I want to know what the truth is."

Her organization, the September 11th Advocates, or the Jersey Girls, was instrumental in pushing for creation of the Sept. 11 commission.

On Thursday, the now-disbanded commission became embroiled in controversy, after acknowledging it omitted crucial information about ringleader Mohammed Atta in its final report last summer.

Former commission members planned to issue a "comprehensive statement" Thursday afternoon addressing the latest developments but they balked, saying they were still reviewing documents.

The information about Atta was generated by the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, according to Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa.

Weldon said a secret unit created by SOCom discovered a year before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that Atta and three other future hijackers were in the United States and that they likely were members of al-Qaida.

Weldon said that members of the unit, known as "Able Danger," wanted to share the information with the FBI "to take out the terrorists" but that military lawyers objected because they were here legally.

At SOCom Thursday afternoon, Col. Samuel Taylor, a spokesman, said they were trying to get answers, too.

Taylor said the investigation should not take too long, and that SOCom planned to share the results with the public.

Taylor joined the SOCom commander, Gen. Doug Brown, and other staff and dignitaries at a memorial service to honor special operations forces killed in action.

"The mood here could not be more positive," Taylor said after the brief ceremony.

"The mission is too important."

SOCom manages the nation's secret commando units and has played a central role in the war on terror since Sept. 11.

Weldon has generated headlines because he has lashed out at the Pentagon and the commission over what he perceives as a missed opportunity to foil the Sept. 11 plot.

Weldon says that intelligence sources shared the information about Able Danger and Atta with the commission but that it did not make it into the report.

In a scathing letter Wednesday to the former co-chairmen of the commission, Weldon said, "The commission's refusal to investigate Able Danger after being notified of its existence, and its recent efforts to feign ignorance of the project while blaming others for supposedly withholding information on it, brings shame on the commissioners."

Early in the week, Al Felzenberg, who had been the commission's chief spokesman, said the panel was unaware of intelligence specifically naming Atta.

But he said subsequent information provided Wednesday confirmed that the commission had been aware of the intelligence.

It did not make it into the final report because the information was not consistent with what the commission knew about Atta's whereabouts before the attacks, he said.

The commission is no longer in existence, although a follow-up organization called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project continues to follow closely the Bush administration's progress in implementing their recommendations.

Citing the latest revelations, Breitweiser, the Sept. 11 widow, called the findings of the Sept. 11 commission "an utterly hollow report."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

[Last modified August 12, 2005, 00:47:15]

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